Brooklyn Nets

James Harden: Brooklyn Nets star dazzles in first game back from injury

After missing 18 games with a hamstring strain, Brooklyn Nets star James Harden returned to the lineup in their 128-116 win over the San Antonio Spurs, their third win in a row

Playing just under 26 minutes, Harden didn't miss a beat in his first game back, giving the Nets his usual combination of playmaking, scoring and of course some eye-popping assists.

He finished with 18 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks on an ultra-efficient 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line.

It was the first time that Harden came off the bench in a regular-season game since April 2012.

"Honestly I liked that Sixth Man role, kind of reminded me when I was in Oklahoma City," Harden told Yes Network post-game.

Harden made it look easy, recording his 32nd double-double of the season and his 28th game with 10+ assists, showing no signs of rust, despite not playing since April 5.

"Honestly this is the longest I've ever been out in my 12-year career, so = it was frustrating," Harden added.

"I take pride in being on the court every single night and even before my injury I never take it for granted, so I never really sit out games, I love to compete, I love to be out there for my teammates and be available for them.

"So this last month just made me open my eyes and think about how much I've really gotta cherish this game and value being out there with my teammates and being able to play for these beautiful fans. I'm happy to be back on the court and we got a mission to go get."

Landry Shamet led eight Nets players in double figures with 21 points, while Nic Claxton added 18, and Jeff Green 16. Kevin Durant chipped in 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three blocks, with the free-flowing offence racking up 33 assists on 48 made field goals, shooting 60.8 percent on the night.

Harden's return to the lineup couldn't come at a better time for the Nets with the playoffs beginning next week as they look to get their full rotation back in action. Following tonight's win, the Nets improve to 28-7 with Harden in the lineup and 11-11 in games that he's missed.

"I think these next few games are key, and that week break we have before it gets real," Harden said of the Nets' playoff preparations. "Our practice time, that's time for us to get things corrected on both ends of the ball and just wrk things out and make sure we're on the same page."

On the eve of Harden's return, Kyrie Irving went down with a facial contusion against the Bulls, missing tonight's game, meaning the trio of Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant have still played just seven games together. In those seven games, they've given the league a glimpse of one of the most devastating three-man lineups, boasting an offensive rating of 122.4 .

They remain in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 46-24 record, 1.5 games clear of the Milwaukee Bucks and 1.5 games back of the No.1 seed Philadelphia 76ers with just two games remaining in the regular season.

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